- Associated Press - Thursday, March 16, 2017

BILOXI, Miss. (AP) - State regulators on Thursday rejected two proposed casino sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast - the second time the same sites have been blocked.

The three-member Mississippi Gaming Commission met behind closed doors for about 90 minutes before coming into open session and rejecting the sites, the Sun Herald reported (https://bit.ly/2mTQYY8 ).

The commissioners did not explain their unanimous decision, but the commission’s executive director, Allen Godfrey, had recommended the sites be denied.

Mississippi law generally limits state-regulated casinos to sites touching water along the Mississippi River or the Gulf Coast.

After Hurricane Katrina caused widespread destruction in 2005, legislators tweaked state law to allow coast casinos to develop slightly inland. Opponents of the two proposed sites said those sites were outside the allowable development areas.

The commission in 2008 denied an application from RW Development for a Biloxi site. In 2014, it denied Jacobs Entertainment’s application for a site in Diamondhead.

The developers reapplied for those sites after terms had expired for the commissioners who ruled against their projects.

RW Development issued a statement saying it would appeal the latest ruling. Michael Cavanaugh, attorney for both developers, said he would also meet with Jacobs Entertainment about whether it would appeal.

Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes was in the state Senate when legislators changed the law after Katrina. He publicly criticized the two proposed sites, saying they were too far inland.

“The greater impact would be the effect of completely changing the character of our south Mississippi community, as it would effectively open the floodgates to an indiscriminate proliferation of gaming sites to areas never contemplated or desired,” Hewes said before Thursday’s meeting. “Furthermore, this cannot be about limitations on competitive opportunities, as a multitude of legal gaming sites are presently in existence and available for development.”

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Information from: The Sun Herald, https://www.sunherald.com

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